Tomorrow I leave for London for ten days, so will not be able to complete the reflections on my recent trip to the Marian shrine before then. I'm still absorbing the impact of the visit and the many graces I received there, coupled with the many contradictory experiences and paradoxes, among them the fact that this sort of devotional phenomenon attracts so many conservative Catholic folk, some good, decent and fair, others quite intolerant, rigid and suspicious, who assume, erroneously, that the Marian apparitions and messages endorse only their own righteous conception of the church. It is a mystery.
I am in the middle of reading Matthew Fox's great and prophetic book, The Pope's War, which I cannot recommend too highly. But he speaks of a conference he attended as a keynote speaker and the fact that a very aggressive group of fundamentalist Catholic watchdogs stood outside the venue, loudly praying the rosary, and then spat at him as he walked by. How utterly sad and how completely inconsistent with the deepest mystical intent of the messages of Medugorje. How does this happen and what does it mean? This is the mystery that I'm trying to unravel. I can certainly understand and sympathize with those fair minded and sensible people who take this sort of behavior as a negative sign against all of the Marian devotions, Medugorje especially. But I am convinced the matter is not so simple and it is part of an interior call in the Spirit (or so I believe through my own personal discernment) that I feel called to witness to the openness of the Medugorje messages and their complete compatibility with a more progressive view of the community called church. This is not an easy task, in fact, it's an uphill battle, but one I feel called to make.
I just finished watching a video of the January 10th apparition given to the visionary Mirjana, who is in many ways the most grounded, sensible and theologically open-minded of all six of the visionaries. The moment of her apparition itself, was profoundly moving, but it was marred by the technique of the camera person who insisted on extreme closeups of the visionary's face during her intimate moment of communion with the Mother of the Lord. I found this so intrusive and so offensive I had to turn away. What I see reflected in this disrespectful technique is the element of fanaticism that Medugjorje engenders and that is not a positive sign. The camera operator (like so many in the mass media in general) seems intent on satisfying his or her own addiction to sensationalism. There is a lack of detachment, a peaceful, reverent, respectful viewing of the event, which would have required that the camera be zoomed back. Instead there is a greedy engorgement in complete disregard of the dignity and respect which should be accorded both the event and the visionary herself.
Kneeling next to Mirjana, on the right, was a man with one set of rosary beads in his hand, another around his neck, and another around his right wrist, together with numerous medals. On her left, was another man with an uncountable number of rosaries strung around his neck and numerous medals, and a look of derangement in the eyes, and I don't mean that comment uncharitably. It's simply an honest observation. On the floor at her feet, however, was a young girl who was by far the most normal and composed of the entire group, and who I assume was Mirjana's young daughter. And in fact before the apparition began, Mirjana was tenderly stroking the young girl's hair. So ... signs of contradiction all around, which leads me to believe that in part, the Madonna is appearing here partly in support of such needy human beings who may be threatened in their faith by so many tumultuous events in the church, changes and scandals both, and assuring them that She and her Son are still with the Church. And yet in the midst of all of this, is the visionary, Mirjana, herself, whom China Gallard described in her book, The Dark Virgin, as "a woman without guile." I have to agree. The very presence of Mirjana, both before, after and during the apparition, communicates profound spiritual maturity, wisdom and peace. She is the sign of contradiction, which both affirms the mystery and transcends and subsumes all of the signs of imbalance and fanaticism around her. It is all such a mystery.
Below is a far more beautiful video of Mirjana, in which she speaks of the impact of the apparitions on her life. Listen to Mirjana's advice that one must always pray before we attempt to speak to others of God, that we must always have peace first in our hearts and refrain from judging and criticizing others. Listen to her summation of the essence of the Medugorje messages and you will find nothing that all members of the Christian family could not agree upon - except, of course, those who feel the need to judge and criticize others whom they consider to be unorthodox. A truly wonderful, remarkable video.